At a repossession hearing, the court considers reasons why your home should or should not be repossessed. You might save your home by going to court.
Go to court to put your case
Make sure you go to your court hearing. You have more chance of keeping your home if you attend.
Take someone with you if you don't feel able to go alone.
Decide what to ask the court
Ask the court to allow you to stay
The court doesn't have to order the repossession of your home.
You can ask the court to:
- suspend a possession order
- adjourn your case
This is usually on the condition that you keep to an agreement about how to pay off your mortgage arrears. It might also be if you are in the process of selling your home.
The court looks at:
- the amount of your arrears
- how many payments you have missed
- how much of your mortgage still owing
The court will also want to know when you made your last mortgage payment and how much you paid.
Find out more about decisions the court can make.
Ask the court to dismiss the case
The case might be dismissed if you have paid off all your mortgage arrears or your lender can't show a reason for removing you from your home.
You will probably have to pay the lender's legal costs for bringing the case to court. These are usually added to your outstanding mortgage.
If the lender has acted unreasonably by taking the case to court, you can ask the court to order the lender not to add any costs to your mortgage debt.
Your lender can apply to restart the possession claim if you fall into arrears again.
Explain why you are in mortgage arrears
Copies of letters to and from your mortgage lender and copies of evidence you have submitted should be included in the court papers.
Take any extra evidence to the court that helps explain the reasons for your arrears, such as:
- medical certificates showing you were ill or had an accident
- letters from doctors, hospital or counselling services showing why you are not working
- letters from your employer about your redundancy
- evidence you had a child or your family circumstances changed
Tell the court if you dispute the arrears amount
Tell the court if you don't agree with your mortgage lender about how much you owe.
Show proof of payments you have made. Bring your bank statements or other evidence of payments with you.
Your lender should provide details of payments they claim you have missed.
The judge could adjourn the case and set a new hearing date. This allows time for you and your lender to prove the amount of arrears.
If your case is adjourned, you can continue to negotiate with your lender and make payments to reduce the arrears before the case comes back to court.
Show the court what action you've taken
The judge will want to see that you have tried to negotiate with your lender.
Keep a record of letters, emails and phone calls to your lender. Take any other evidence that you have been in touch, even if this is your diary, household calendar or house or mobile phone logs or bills.
Your lender might say that you have not contacted them. You'll need evidence to show that you have.
Be prepared to show the court that you have tried to find ways to keep your home.
For example, that you have made claims for benefits or against an insurance policy or tried to get legal advice.
Show the court how you'll deal with arrears
Show the court how you will be able to afford your mortgage instalments and repay your arrears.
Work out how long it will take you to pay back your arrears. It is usually better to try to agree to pay arrears over a shorter period but they could be spread over the remainder of your mortgage term.
Use the income and expenditure sheet sent to you by the court with the defence form and particulars of claim. This helps show the judge you can afford to pay the mortgage.
Tell the court if your circumstances have improved recently. Show the judge any evidence of this. For example if you have:
- found a new job
- borrowed a lump sum from family or friends
- inherited some money
- given up running a car or taken in a lodger to improve your finances
Use the Money Advice Service budget planner to help work out your household budget.
What to tell the court
Tell the court how much your home is worth
Find out the value of your home if you sell it.
Use the Money Saving Expert guide to free house valuations to get an idea of how much your home is worth.
The difference between the sale price of your home and all the mortgages and loans secured against it is known as equity. The amount of equity you have in your home makes a difference in mortgage repossession cases.
If you have more equity than you owe in a mortgage, the risk to your lender of a delay in repossession is small. The court may be prepared to give you more time to sort things out.
If you don't have much equity in your home, there is a greater risk to the lender in allowing you to build up more arrears.
There is more risk for your lender if you are in negative equity, meaning that you owe more on your mortgage than your home will sell for.
Tell the court if you want to sell your home
Tell the court if you have decided to sell your home to pay back your mortgage and the arrears.
The court could postpone the case or suspend the repossession of your home to give you time to sell your home.
Show the court proof that you have had your home valued and that the sale will pay back what you owe.
Say if your lender hasn't followed the rules
There are rules that mortgage lenders should follow to try to deal with arrears problems before a case comes to court.
If this hasn't happened, say this when you complete your defence form for the court and tell the judge at the court hearing.
Find out more about repossession rules for mortgage lenders and borrowers.
Tell the court if the lender's paperwork is wrong
A particulars of claim form sets out the details of your mortgage lender's claim against you.
If the lender doesn't complete the particulars of claim correctly, the judge can decide to:
- allow the lender to amend the particulars of claim
- allow the hearing to proceed despite the errors
- not allow the lender to present any new information at the hearing
In some circumstances, the claim may be dismissed and the lender will have to re-apply to the court if they want to repossess your home.
In this situation you should not have to pay your lender's legal costs.
Say if you received unsuitable mortgage advice
Tell the court and get legal advice if you were pressured into accepting an unsuitable mortgage or the lender misled you about the terms of the mortgage.
You may have a legal defence and the court could dismiss the case.
Ask for a delay if the court decides against you
Even if the court decides you should lose your home, it may delay a decision to repossess your home if you are having difficulty finding somewhere else to live.
The court can only delay by a maximum of 56 days.
Ask the court to postpone the hearing
Ask the court to adjourn (postpone) its decision if you:
- dispute the amount of the mortgage arrears that you owe
- are waiting for benefits payments that will significantly reduce or pay off the arrears
- will have money to clear the arrears soon
- are selling your home but you need more time to complete the sale
The court can also postpone its decision if your lender didn't follow the rules for dealing with repossession cases before taking court action.
If you have not been able to get legal advice before the hearing, ask the court for more time to look at ways to avoid repossession.
Contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345. You may be able to get help from a legal aid lawyer if you claim certain benefits or have a low income.
For face to face help, use Shelter's directory to find a housing adviser at a Shelter advice service, Citizen's Advice or law centre.
Have the papers you received from the court with you when you speak to an adviser.
Use the Gov.uk legal adviser finder to find solicitors in your area.
Last updated 18 Jun 2015 | © Shelter
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